Hola from Mexico!
It seems so crazy that Veeran and I left Korea way back in March and that our “homecoming tour” has only just come to an end. With Veeran’s family and friends living in South Africa and mine mainly living in The UK (with a couple stragglers in Malta and The Netherlands), we had a lot of ground to cover to get round everyone. This was, without a doubt, the busiest 2 months of my life, touching base in EIGHT COUNTRIES!
Here’s what we got up to!
We spent 6 lovely long weeks in South Africa mainly staying with Veeran’s family in Johannesburg. After visiting Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga & Durban back in April, we spent most of our final 2 weeks playing tourist in Joburg before ending our trip in the gorgeous Cape Town.
I feel like I really warmed to Johannesburg towards the end of the trip. In the beginning, I felt like it was a lot of high walls and shopping malls. (Seriously, I think Joburg has more shopping centres per square mile than any other city in the world.) But, eventually, when I really got out and explored it, I became quite fond of it.
We did the red bus tour which took us to all the big sights around the city and to Soweto: an area that was developed as a black township during apartheid and is now a city in itself. It was actually my first time on a city bus tour (that I can remember anyway) and I think that Johannesburg was the perfect city to do it in. Since the city is huuuugeee, it’s much easier to get a feel for it on the bus. It took in all the main sights, including The Apartheid Museum which is, without a doubt, one of the most worthwhile attractions in the city.
We also finally explored Maboneng, the city’s new cultural hub. I loved Maboneng- it reminded me of Brick Lane in London, especially when we visited for the Sunday market. Everyone had been mentioning it to us since we got there but we just never got around to visiting. Next time I’m in SA, I’ll be down there every Sunday!
Cape Town was, undoubtedly, my favourite place that I visited in South Africa. I’d even go as far to say that it’s one of my favourite cities in the world now. If anything, it’s in my top 3 most beautiful, along with Edinburgh and Stockholm.
We spent 5 days there in total, staying in a gorgeous Air BnB in the posh area of Camps Bay (which we got for about 40 quid a night!) If you’ve not used Air BnB before, use my code to get money off your first stay. It’s one of my favourite accommodation choices when I’m in a new city!
So many people told us that we were crazy to visit Cape Town in May since it would be pouring with rain and miserable. Um, the sun was splitting the sky everyday and it felt like the height of summer to me! This wasn’t all rosy, though. The rains hit Cape Town much later than normal this year meaning that the city suffered a lot of droughts. So while we were busy enjoying the good weather, we didn’t really have to suffer the repercussions of it.
During our short trip, we managed to see a lot of the city: we went up Table Mountain (on a clear sunny day with an amazing view out over the Cape of Good Hope), had a chippy down at Houts Bay, has some tasty street food at the Old Biscuit Mill on market day, enjoyed drinks at the V&A Waterfront and even saw the Penguins down at Boulder’s Beach! The highlight, however, was touring Stellenbosch with Wine Flies Tour.
Champagne for breakfast?
Chocolate and wine pairing?
Cheese and wine pairing?
It was the best final day we could ever have had in South Africa. (Review coming soon!)
After South Africa, we flew back to Europe to catch up with more friends and family. It might seem strange to have jumped from The UK to South Africa and back to Europe but I spent a lot of time researching flights, and this made the most sense! Plus, since South Africans need an extortionate visa just to step in an airport in The USA, flying via Europe is the most logical way to get from South Africa to Central America. We made a mini holiday out of it and saw everyone else who we needed to see!
It was a lovely surprise that the cheapest ticket we could find from South Africa to Europe was a total steal on a flight with Emirates to Rome!! I’ve never been to Italy before so we spent a few days there seeing all the tourist sights and eating EVERYTHING!
I also managed to meet up with my girl, Laura, from Willful and Wildhearted! Travel blogging is a weird game- you have all these online friends who you’ve never met in real life but speak to more than your real friends and family! I guess they’re kind of like your colleagues, but you can pick and choose them.
Laura and I both lived in Korea and have been “cyber friends” pretty much since the inception of my blog. We never managed to meet up in Korea since she lived up in Seoul but, by surprise, we ended up being in Rome at the same time.
It actually didn’t feel like meeting a new person at all since we chat so much already but it was great to meet in real life! (And we both had serious hangovers the next day to prove just how much fun we had!)
One of my best friends from home, Lauren, and her boyfriend, Stuart, left London for sunny Malta about a year ago and I’ve been desperate to visit ever since. Malta was quite different to anywhere I’ve ever been- it feels like kind of Mediterranean but a bit middle eastern at the same time. It’s a tiny country that gets 300 days of sunshine a year which is probably why so many British expats are heading that way!
I hadn’t seen Lauren for 2 years so I was excited just to catch up!! Her and Stuart took us to some of their favourite places to eat and drink- places we would probably never have known about on our own. (Thanks guys!)
We also did a bit of sightseeing, visiting the ancient city of Mdina and the capital city, Valleta. Even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan (like me), Malta is still definitely a worthwhile place to visit before it becomes too popular! The architecture was gorgeous and the Italian food was just as good as what we had in Rome!
Veeran’s aunt and uncle live in Switzerland so we had to pop in and pay them a visit while we were in the European area! Switzerland is a country I’ve never really considered visiting purely because it’s expensive and I don’t like skiing! I’m glad I finally had a reason to visit, though, because it was stunning. (And, surprise surprise, there are things to do that don’t involve skiing.) The countryside areas really reminded of Scotland- the clean, pristine cities definitely didn’t!
We visited both Zurich and Basel, but also escaped out into the countryside for the day. Like our trip to Malta, our trip to Switzerland was more about seeing Veeran’s Auntie and Uncle than sightseeing- but getting to see these amazing places was a great bonus!
The final straggler to visit was my dad who lives in Haarlem which is just outside of Amsterdam! It was my second time visiting The Netherlands and I loved visiting at the start of the summer and exploring more unknown places. We only went to Amsterdam one day so that we could take Veeran to the Red Light District and sit outside the Van Gogh Museum and pretend to be more cultured than we actually are!
We spent a lot of time cycling and a lot of time in pubs. It probably makes a lot of sense that we fell off our bikes several times over the week!
One night riding back from a beach party, my dad fell off his bike, making me fall off my bike and cycle over his hand in the process. There were war wounds.
Spending time with my dad is always fun and he’d been keeping his eye out for things to do with us for ages. The week went in far too quickly, though. (Although my liver might tell you otherwise…)
The final stop of our Euro trip was Cologne! We were there for less than 24 hours, purely to take advantage of a cheap Eurowings flight to Havana (180 euros- nae food, nae drink, nae telly!)
We barely did anything in Cologne, to be honest. I jumped in to H&M for a few last minute bits and bobs and we had a final European dinner which was….
Apart from Italian, Greek and British food, I actually don’t really enjoy European food at all. Too bland, too meat heavy and too stodgy. (Yes, I know these are all hallmarks of British food, too, but you can’t beat a yorkshire pudding or a deep fried battered pizza with chips and curry sauce!)
The only other city I’ve ever visited in Germany is Berlin, and Cologne had a totally different vibe. I’d like to return again one day, especially if I can get another cheap Eurowings ticket to somewhere exotic!
Ahhh Cuba. The reason that this post is a double whammy is because of the 3 weeks we spent in Cuba with next to no WiFi. You see, WiFi is farely new in Cuba so you need to buy little cards for $4.50 per hour. I decided to go without and have a bit of a digital detox while I was there instead, only jumping on to check our flight was still running as scheduled.
We had mixed feelings about Cuba. There were a lot of things I loved about it: the people, the old cars, staying in casas, the music and, of course, the mojitos. But, there were a lot of things that I found difficult, too: the relationship between price and quality was definitely disproportionate, the food was often mediocre, it was hard to meet other travellers and there were lots of touts.
It’s a complex place- on the one hand, you don’t mind paying above the odds to support the enterprising people starting their own businesses. But, at the same time, when you’re travelling for a while, it stings to pay so much for things that are substandard.
I’m going to write some more indepth posts about Cuba soon but, for now, here’s a quick overview of where we went.
My favourite place in Cuba. I’d go all the way back to Cuba just to spend a weekend in Havana!
This tobacco town on Vinales is definitely the most beautiful place that we seen on our trip.
Some of the cheapest diving in the world. ($25 a pop!) I snorkelled and Veeran dived. We also got taken to a Cuban birthday party here!
A French colonial town that was quite different to anywhere else we went in Cuba. We didn’t think there was a whole lot to do here so only spent a day visiting.
A not so secret but gorgeous Spanish colonial town with cobbled stones and colourful churches and houses. It’s conveniently located close to Playa Ancon which is one of the best beaches in Southern Cuba!
The most touristy part of the country but, still, one of the most gorgeous (and accessible) beach destinations. White sand, turquoise water, cheap rum. It was a great end to our trip.
We finally reached Mexico and I’m so excited to start our OVERLAND journey! We did far too much flying this year and I’m getting sick of passport control and security.
Mexico was exactly what we needed after our long trip in Cuba. Finding street food for a 5th of the price of a Cuban meal with about 100 times the flavour was very welcome!
We loved this cute little hippie hang out which came highly recommended by my amazing friend Eva who now has her own travel blog! (Check it out and support my pal, por favor.) With ancient ruins, cenotes and mile upon mile of beautiful beach, you could easily spend a week here and not get bored. We were there for just 3 days and loved the chilled vibes. I could have spent even longer there.
We stayed at Chill Inn hostel in the town centre. It was close to all the bars and restaurants but only a short cycle away from the beach!
After Tulum, we made our way to the wee island of Isla Holbox to swim with whale sharks and for more chill time before getting back to work.
Swimming with whale sharks is something that I wanted to do back in The Philippines but didn’t because I heard that they bate the sharks there.
In Mexico, I did my homework and came across the company VIP Holbox who looked reputable and ethical. They only offer the whale shark tours for a couple of months a year- when the whale sharks are going to be there, and don’t bate. Words can’t even describe how surreal it is to swim beside a creature this vast, how quickly it’s over and how strange it is to think back on! It’s one of the most memorable things that I’ve ever done on my travels.
What I’ve Been Reading
With no WiFi in Cuba, I managed to make my way through a shit ton of books!
Yup, me and old Hazza P are still going strong. I’m on to the 7th book now and seriously don’t know what I’m going to do with my life when I finish. Why did I purposely live so long without giving auld Harry a chance!
I’ve been intrigued by the “hygge” phenomonen ever since me and my pal Emma met some Danish guys in Sri Lanka who told us about it. Hygge, to put it simply, is pretty much the act of being cosy and this book goes into a lot of depth explaining this concept and examines why the Danes are so happy.
I must say, this isn’t exactly the ideal book to read on a Carribean beach! It made me actually miss winter in Scotland, want to wear a cosy jumper and buy a huge box of candles. But it was definitely an interesting read and one I would recommend for anyone planning to visit Denmark (or simply lead a more cosy life!)
This has to be one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I’m not usually a fan of autobiographies but this was too hilarious and well written not to like.
South African comedian,Trevor Noah, was born during the apartheid to a black mother and white father. The book follows what his life was like growing up in a divided South Africa as a person of mixed race but has plenty of funny anecdotes to keep the tone light. I felt like it was a really engaging way to learn about the South African apartheid from a real person’s perspective, rather than a political one. There were lots of little things that I had noticed while I was there which it shed more light on and helped me understand.
I would recommend this book to anyone but, especially, those visiting South Africa!
Although I use the kindle app on my phone and tablet to read books, I like to have just one paperback on me at all times in case my battery runs out. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s- Holly Golightly was my bebo name (remember bebo!), I had movie posters in my room and was actually bought the book by two separate people, but never got round to reading it.
In Cuba, I almost ran out of books to read so decided to finally give Breakfast at Tiffany’s a go. It’s super short so you can easily get through on a intercity bus journey. Plus, the book is absolutely nothing like the movie! Usually I’m worried that watching a movie will ruin the book but that wasn’t the case with Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
If you’ve seen the movie, definitely read the book to give you a bit more understanding of the back story and of Miss Holly Golightly herself.
Hmmm. I don’t even know where to start with this one. (I’m sure anyone else who has read it will agree that it’s hard to put this one into words.)
The Vegetarian follows an obedient, South Korean woman called Yeong-He who, following a horrific dream, decides to become a vegetarian. In South Korea, where vegetarianism isn’t the norm, this is seen as a shocking act of rebellion by her husband and those around her. Then things get a bit weird and disturbing. The book touches on a lot of sensitive topics like eating disorders, mental illness, abuse and sexual assualt. If you’re ok with dark and psychological books, and like international literature, this is definitely worth a read.
Seems like every month I have some new kind of work related self help book under my belt! Now that I’m living a location independent life and working on the go, I’m always looking for new passive income streams and plan to create my own digital product by the end of the year. This book was a huge inspiration and really got my brain ticking with new ideas and encouraged me to actually put pen to paper and start to take action on my plan!
If you loved the concept behind Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Workweek, but don’t really agree with the idea of outsourcing all your dirty work to a $3 per hour virtual assistant in Bangladesh, then you should definitely read this book. What I loved about it is that the author encourages new entrepreneurs to pursue passion projects rather than just cash cows.
If you want to read any of these books, click on the images below to see them on amazon!
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Saving and Spending
Although our trip to Europe looked pretty extravagant, we actually didn’t end up spending too much because we were mainly staying with friends and family. Cuba ended up being a pretty difficult place to travel in on a budget. We had taken that into account anyway, though. I’m going to start writing more in depth guides into what I spend in each country because we need to start talking more about money and travel! This life isn’t as expensive as you probably think, but it’s definitely not free, either, and takes some serious discipline and saving.
In terms of work, I had to take a break in June because of the Cuban WiFi. One of the things about being a freelancer is that you don’t really get holidays in the traditional sense but it’s still worth it for the freeeedom. (I’m typing this from my super cute Air BnB in Mexico right now!) I had already planned ahead for June to be my month off work and had my back covered so this wasn’t an issue at all.
What’s Next in July
Veeran and I are now settled into a little Air BnB in Guadalajara where we will be for the next month. After all the running (flying) about we’ve been doing for the past couple of months, it feels so nice to settle back into a routine, have some stillnessand be productive. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that a 2 week holiday- of purely holidaying, is far too much for me! I need to be busy and doing something that isn’t just travelling. By then end of our trip to Cuba, I had serious ants in my pants and that’s why this lifestyle of a bit of work/bit of travel suits me perfectly!
Anyone been to Guadalajara? Let me know what I absolutely can’t miss!
Thanks again to everyone for following along with my journey and making this all possible! If we’ve not already, let’s connect on Facebook 🙂
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Wine Flies Tours, Ristomama, VIP Holbox and Chill Inn in return for online exposure. As always, all opinions are my own.